Questions about Damp
What is a damp survey?
A damp survey is the process of inspecting a building to assess the extent of dampness or water ingress, its causes, and reporting those findings to the client. It is often referred to as a ‘single defect inspection’.
Typically, we will be asked to complete a damp survey if a client notices dampness on internal walls. Dampness may also be flagged as an issue during the property purchase process by the mortgage company’s valuer, or by another surveyor completing a Level 2 (Homebuyer) report.
When we inspect for dampness, we first speak with the owner or occupier to find out what signs and symptoms they saw that caused them to call us in. This briefing acts as a starting point for further investigation.
We usually use our moisture meter to detect signs of dampness. The moisture meter a professional surveyor uses is generally much more sophisticated and sensitive than a reasonably priced one you can pick up at a hardware store. Along with the surveyor’s experience and intuition, the moisture meter can help to create a picture of the true extent of the dampness – this often goes beyond the dampness originally reported.
To determine whether a building component is damp, our surveyors will also consider smells, which can indicate long-standing and serious dampness. In many cases, the dampness will also be visible, either through discolouration or through the bubbling of plaster.
Once we have established the extent of the dampness, we start looking for clues as to the cause of the dampness.
How do you identify the cause of dampness?
This can be tricky. In some instances, dampness can be caused by a single issue, such as running overflow pipes, but often there might be more than one contributing factor, so it is important that we consider all possible causes.
When we see dampness in older, perhaps more run-down properties, there can be a number of contributing factors such as leaking gutters, damaged render, inappropriately detailed render, failed damp proof courses, clogged cavities, leaking pipes, and so on.
It is crucial that we inspect the building intelligently and thoroughly, stepping back to look at the whole picture, rather than limiting the inspection to the area of the dampness. The extent of the inspection will depend on the exact nature of the dampness and how long it has been there, for example if it has suddenly appeared.
A lot of people get in touch after a big storm, when they suddenly notice new areas of dampness. Often, in these circumstances, the heavy rain has exposed an external building maintenance issue. For example, if the external brickwork needs repointing it will take in more water than a properly maintained wall. A classic example of ‘a stitch in time saves nine’! In this instance, we would recommend repointing, which is often all you need to solve that particular damp issue.
Why is damp a problem?
Most modern buildings are designed to provide a dry internal environment which means that some building components, such as timber floors, need the internal environment to remain dry so that they do not rot, for example.
Dampness in buildings can also encourage mould growth, which can contribute toward, or aggravate, respiratory conditions such as asthma. In extreme cases, it can also result in visible condensation moisture developing on internal surfaces – not just around windows but also on walls and ceilings.
How do you report on issues after the damp inspection?
We always agree the extent and methodology of reporting with you when you instruct us to go ahead with your damp survey. Sometimes, we will discuss the issues on site and report back through a short email, though we are more likely to write a letter reporting on the issues. If you need us to, we can send a copy of this report to a third party, such as a mortgage lender.
If it is the most pragmatic solution, we might suggest a phased approach, addressing the most obvious causes of the damp, and perhaps deferring more expensive work. This phased approach will only be suitable under certain circumstances, and will depend on the client’s exact requirements. For example, if the dampness is being treated during a refurbishment, the developer might not want to wait several months for the brickwork to dry out before they can move on to the next phase of building work.
Why should I use a Chartered Building Surveyor for a damp inspection?
A Chartered Building Surveyor will have refined their skills for inspecting building defects over a number of years and will have a vast knowledge of how buildings are constructed, and how they can fail. A Chartered Building Surveyor will also carry professional indemnity insurance, so the advice they are giving is always backed by insurance.
When you have damp on internal walls, it might be tempting to first approach a damp-proofing contractor. Unless you really trust the damp proofing contractor, you should consider whether the damp proofing contractor has the same knowledge and skill as a surveyor and, more importantly, whether they have a vested interest in selling you more damp treatments than you actually need.
In our experience, we have found that contractors sometimes provide a solution which treats the symptoms but not the cause of the damp, which can often be much more expensive.
How can I arrange a damp survey?
If you have noticed damp in your own property and would like a Chartered Building Surveyor to complete a damp survey, one of our expert surveyors at Harrison Clarke will be happy to discuss your requirements over the phone, before sending you a fee proposal so that you are fully aware of the costs of a damp survey before agreeing to go ahead.
It depends on their availability, but one of our surveyors will usually be able to carry out a damp survey for you within a week or two of you getting in touch with us.